Damage! Pros, Cons & Paradoxes

Wreckfest Damage.jpg
Many modern simulators now have impressive damage simulation both physically and visually affecting your car and handling, in fact it's become one of the main features in games like BeamNG and Wreckfest.

How important is damage in a racing simulator to you, do you use it, does it change the experience for you and do you find it useful or problematic when racing online?

Does it work online?

If you jump into an online race in something like Iracing or Automobilista 2 (both of which have extensive damage modelling), and the server is set up with full damage active, do you find that it changes the way people drive, in that people may give each other a bit more space, drive more considerately, not take as many dangerous risks and do everything to look after their car. Or do you find it can cause problems?

Here are two different scenarios:
  1. The server has damage turned on but also only allows drivers with safe pings to connect, it also has a good ranking system turned on and only lets people join with a decent safety rating, hopefully eliminating the chance of wreckers joining and also drawing drivers in who won't quit early if they pick up some damage and have to pit.
  2. The server has damage turned on but no ping limits, ranking system or safety rating, allowing anyone to join wreck and quit early.
Obviously the second option would leave the door open for people to drive in any manner they like and would most likely end up in an early pile up and no one left racing by the second or third lap, but! Would the first option appeal to you, do you think it would make for a good and interesting race, or would you avoid it anyway and go for something a little less serious?

Does it change the experience, does it change the track?​

Take a track like Bathurst, would turning the damage on here totally change the experience for you, even if you are offline having a practice session with no other cars on track?

I personally find that on a track like this it makes a huge difference to the immersion, the way you drive, and you're respect for the track.

If you were offered a drive in real life at somewhere like Silverstone you might feel reasonably safe and confident, with its large run off areas and reasonably flat layout.

Get offered a drive at Bathurst however and you may not feel quite so sure of yourself and not want to push it too hard due to those hard concrete walls being so close, and steep downhill sections where a lockup under braking could be very expensive at least, and very dangerous at worst! I know I'd be feeling a lot less confident here!

But in a sim with damage turned off, you really miss out on that feeling, respect for the track and the element of danger, you can just shoot the car down the Esses and the Dipper clattering and bouncing off walls all the way. Infact when I've raced there online I've seen the phrase "Pinball alley" used in the chat box used so many times!

If I turn the damage up to full here, then for me at least this track is a totally different ballgame (pun intended). I really start to feel the extra atmosphere and apprehension this terrifying track conjures up! I'm thinking about those walls all the time, I can feel my whole body tense up every time I get close to one, I'm treating my breaks with all the finesse I can muster on the way down the hill, I'm locked in and concentrating hard!

What's the payoff?

Simply this, after running a bunch of fast but clean laps at somewhere like Bathurst or Macau with damage on full, I'm sweating, the adrenaline is pumping, and the sense of achievement is immense! Step things up and have an actual race either against A.I. or online and make it to the end without totalling the car and you're sense of achievement goes through the roof, you'll be on cloud nine!

The pros, cons and paradoxes!

Obviously if you have a race in a simulator with full on crippling damage, you could total your car so badly on the very first lap, that you can't even make it back to the pits and that's you're race over, as is the risk in the real world.

If that's in an online server, that may have been a one hour race you'd spent planning for and tuning for well in advance. Thats going be pretty disappointing and unless you've got a plan B lined up, it's a lot of time wasted, however you may just make it through safely and feel great afterwards!

With damage off you may lose a little of the buzz of zipping through a small gap safely, but at least you know you've got a guaranteed hour of racing even if things go a bit sideways.

It's certainly true that a race at one of the tracks mentioned above (or any other like them), could very easily be over after a few laps with damage turned on, but here's a funny thing, with damage turned off there tends to be more pile ups and stop / starts every other lap simply because people will clatter the walls and end up facing backwards in the middle of the track, because they can!

Another paradoxical thing I've noticed is if you take a game like Wreckfect, where you can turn the damage from just visual to fully performance impacting (or 'Realistic' as the setting is called in game), a game where the point of it is to win by wrecking! There now seem to be lots of servers springing up touting themselves as 'clean racing', using the realistic damage setting and populated by drivers trying to race without wrecking or damaging their cars, in fact some of those servers are cleaner racing than I've had on some public servers and even organised servers in simulators without damage. Go figure that one out, maybe it's all about the challenge?

One last thing I'd like to mention before I wrap this up, what do we all think of under carriage damage (or damage from impacts below)? Some sims that have pretty good damage simulation still don't have this at all! I was so impressed when I jumped into Raceroom, hit a large sausage kerb at speed in an open wheeler, got launched into the air and realised when I landed that my suspension had collapsed, I almost fell off my rig!

Now, imagine if every sim had this, what it would mean for turn one at Monza! Even with all other types of damage turned off, this one thing alone might just stop everyone just hitting the sausage kerbs there and causing a big mess! They’re there for a reason! Or maybe not, what do you think?

Leave your views in the comment section below.

Original source

  • Paul McCaffrey
About author
Tarmac Terrorist
If I can drive it, I'm Rocking it!!! Besides writing sim racing articles I am running my own YouTube channel called Tarmac Terrorist

Comments

If this mechanic were the case, and I wish it were. Online lobbies would be full of side by side corner to corner great racing. It would certainly dissuade the Mario Kart crowd from showing up. I thought joining iRacing with its pay to play subscription model and ranking system would be full of clean racers, but iRacing has the most irate and toxic drivers of any lobby I've joined.
 
Over the history of racing simulations, incorporating realistic damage has been tepid. Done well, it can add to a sense of authenticity and tension, but I mostly wish developers put their efforts elsewhere. There's a number of things interfering:

- It's very difficult to develop damage modeling to a sufficient level to be believable.
- It's additionally difficult to incorporate damage events into the racing model.
- Beyond the spectacle of parts flying off or breaking apart, you've been pulled out of your flow and now have to either restart or get back to the pits.
- While consequences may guide you to improve, this is the stick instead of the carrot. This may not be a reward system those with limited sim time will appreciate.
- On the multiplayer side, damage does not historically deter risky behavior (and this is a hobby of pushing your limits after all). People will care about their reputation or safety score more than pushing through after a damage event. Some will just quit.

This is not unique to simracing either. First person shooters have mostly steered clear of having your 'health' degrading your ability to perform except in very crude ways. Roughly: because even if it's realistic it's un-fun.

I'm probably the minority, but I'm into simracing for the driving experience. Not the story mode, the setup tweaking, or even the pit lane. All those other things are very different development challenges and usually aren't made well (looking at you ACC). I'd rather developers focus strictly on making the sim RACING experience as good as possible. Let's simulate the parts that are fun to simulate.
 
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Its all part of making it the experience, as far as I am concerned, more is better.
If this mechanic were the case, and I wish it were. Online lobbies would be full of side by side corner to corner great racing. It would certainly dissuade the Mario Kart crowd from showing up. I thought joining iRacing with its pay to play subscription model and ranking system would be full of clean racers, but iRacing has the most irate and toxic drivers of any lobby I've joined.
I Racer here for 5 plus years, Joined a team, had the time of my life. Yes the first year was full of drivers with no clue. so I ran my own servers Saturday mornings , got good drivers interested and BAM , 3 wide racing with little to no wrecks. A licenses in all disciplines . Paint the Yellow, fantastic bunch of Guy's, thanks for the memories. But when it comes to wrecking, the graphics are never good enough. Would love to see wreckfest style graphics or even better in all racing sims.
 
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Premium
It would be realy interesting, how different simracing would be, if a simulator could do the same damage like in realy life. If driving over grass or gravel would cause a decent amount of bad consequenses, simracing would be completely different.

Also if the damage would cause a bigger time to respawn/reuse a car. It would change simracing...
 
Premium
The more realism the better (IMO)!!!...I would even like to see cars leaking fluids and burning after a crash? I can imagine plug and play devises that increase the realism even farther like for instance an odor generator: this device will produce an odor of burning rubber, burning oil, hot water and even the wonderful odor of bbq hotdogs and chicken and burgers (like Sebring and Le Mans fans cooking trackside):)
 
Damage all the way for me. It's the main reason I went over to iracing. Although I do wish it did better at giving you punctures due to contact or conditions.
ACC kind of frustrated me you could slam into walls with "relatively" minor impact on your race. For me it just makes it more realistic and generally people are more respectful.
I remember loving that old PS1 game destruction derby because of the carnage.
 
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As far as visual deformation such as body damage in simulation goes....
No, I could care less if it is shown on parts.
You are not going to circulate the track saying "Oh look at how good that damage looks on my car."
The minute there is damage you are going to pit for repairs.
If you lose a wing or end-plate that should be seen but more importantly affect the car's handling.
As to flat tires or engine internal damage simulation....sure. We have to have that.
Not every single aspect needs to be there to make a sim interesting.
 
Since you've mentioned it on your YT channel a few months ago, I've enabled 100% or 200% damage in AMS 2 in races against AI and never went back to disabling it. It makes races so much more tense, where a single collision can result in race over. Just like in the real world, you really have to pay attention to everything, in particular not colliding with AI (with the annoying side effect of AI possibly colliding you and it's not your fault). With no damage, you are often tempted to exploit AI weakness and force passage, as a collision has no consequence (unless big pile up).
And damage enabled makes you drive more safely, which is a good skill to have for MP.
Here I'm just talking about collision damage (against other cars or environement), not mechanical damage/wear which is another debate.
 
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You have forgotten to mention the political implications which prevent some games from providing good damage models, at least from an aesthetical point of view. Some brands simply don't want the world to see their beautiful models deformed or wrecked. I suppose that is the reason some games featuring real cars' models prefer to limit the amount of visual damage.
 
You have forgotten to mention the political implications which prevent some games from providing good damage models, at least from an aesthetical point of view. Some brands simply don't want the world to see their beautiful models deformed or wrecked. I suppose that is the reason some games featuring real cars' models prefer to limit the amount of visual damage.
That's an urban myth:
 
Damage simulation would make the simulator more realistic, yes, but it brings
a problem: races will finish for you at the slightest accident, so you will have
to restart the race all over again, and this is boring.
 
Damage is immersive but in short races people just quit if they get damage. There needs to be a reason for people to continue to race, even if they are getting blue flagged. Thats why damage is only really great for league races.
 
Damage simulation would make the simulator more realistic, yes, but it brings
a problem: races will finish for you at the slightest accident, so you will have
to restart the race all over again, and this is boring.
The most fun I had with simracing in last year was finishing a 40 minutes rally on beamng multiple times trying to set a good time.
Restarting over and over can be fun when the challenge is well done. Most old games were all about that!

In online racing too I tend to prefer servers with damage on because they tend to attract better drivers if there's also some ranking system
 
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D
A game developer lies as much as any other seller. I don't believe a word he says. What's next: "we included SUVs in AC because they are so interesting to drive"?
What would be Stefano's incentive to lie during some interview, and AC does have some damage model for all brands, which proves his point.
And SUVs just like street cars while not being full racing breed machines, are providing different set of challenges making it "interesting" to drive, and double interesting if you drive something similar IRL.
 
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Premium
Depends on what your preference is.

1) Forza Horizon would not be what it is, or a large market success, if it did not have the eye candy and cars impervious to any damage, where you get rewarded for smashing up the environment but not yourself. This tickles our brain pleasure centers so much so that its fun for most.

2) Immersion is something else, and this is where I think most people reside on this forum. With rigs, wheels, display systems and software that imitates reality. How challenging it is to finish a race with no front spoiler and a bent tie rod. It's a real world challenge, like in Rally oftentimes...

3) What I think really matters is how the two could be inter-related, like in BEAMNG which is touted as the ultimate CRASH simulator, although it has some very good fundamentals when it comes to chassis dynamics and how that relates to various tactile feedback systems. It's really on the right course when it comes to damage models, and its also most CPU intensive for this reason, without just changing the visual appearance and modifying the cleartext car setup files like most games do efficiently. Ultimately as computers become more powerful and ubiquitous we will move away from visual texture damage, with hidden suspension and canned damage models. To building virtual cars with real materials and setups that more accurately represent the very complex dynamic nature vehicle physics.
BEAMNG example.jpg
Great topic to explore.
 
Fantastic read, thanks so much @Tarmac Terrorist :)

I'm all for damage in sims, for realism and for making the racing more intense (as you describe so well talking about Bathurst).

Immersive visual damage like iRacing's new model and BeamNG are fantastic. But also, as I've heard people like Ted Hough and Austin Ogonoski often mention, I would love it if driving cars in sims (especially less technologically advanced club racers like Spec Miatas) required a great deal of "mechanical sympathy" e.g. managing brake wear and fade, proper H-pattern gearbox simulation and damage model, not pushing the engine too hard, having parts wear or fail and having to figure out how to race the now-suboptimal car all the same. BeamNG is promising for simulating this stuff. Specifically for gearbox behaviour and wear, the HistorX "grinding tranny" plugin was a good first step, and recently Iron Wolf has added gear-by-gear damage into GTR2 via Crew Chief plugin, which is great.
 
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